In some quarters, Jef Whitehead’s cover to the new album (Death Mask) by Chicago’s Lord Mantis has stirred up controversy — including in the comment thread to our own review of the album, where the band’s Charlie Fell joined the conversation to provide his own response to the controversy. Of course, controversy and metal aren’t strangers. In fact, one might argue that controversy is at the heart of metal. In fact, one might go further and argue that metal really doesn’t give a shit (and shouldn’t give a shit) about social agendas, political issues, or trying to move society in one direction or another.
That seems to be the general point of a short but potent piece by our fellow blogger Full Metal Attorney that appeared yesterday. In that piece, with the title “Metal Doesn’t Give A Shit”, he uses the controversy over Whitehead’s cover as a jumping-off point for an opinion piece in which he responds to the claim that metal should become “a truly counter-cultural resistance against mainstream society” — and I quote in part below:
“No, I’m sorry. Metal doesn’t care. Metal is horror films, snuff films, shock jocks, and pulp in music form. It has no higher purpose, and no social agenda.
Metal isn’t left. It isn’t right. It’s up yours. Dee Snider didn’t dress up like a woman because he was “ahead of his time” on queer issues, he did it to piss people off.
The only metalheads who do give a shit are punks who got into metal and a handful of bloggers. Not the dirty bastards who show up at every local show. Do you think Amon Amarth cares about social justice? The individual members, maybe. The band, definitely not.
…. Metal is Hells Headbangers and Iron Bonehead. It’s just music. Yes, it can be groundbreaking, even brilliant music. That’s why we have Profound Lore. But it’s still just music. Music that gives far fewer rats’ asses than any other kind of music.”
To read the full piece, go here.
This brushes up against issues I’ve wrestled with for years (and it sounds like Full Metal Attorney has done his own wrestling with them as well): to what extent should we care what metal bands sing about, what they put on their album covers, how they conduct themselves on stage, etc.? Should NSBM be shunned because the bands espouse morally repugnant ideologies? More specifically, should people boycott Inquisition’s albums if it turns out to be true (as discussed here) that they’re a couple of white supremacists?
And apart from what metal should or shouldn’t represent (and whether metal fans should or shouldn’t take such issues into account in deciding what bands to spend their money on), do you think it’s true that metal really doesn’t give a shit?
I don’t think generalizations work here — many bands obviously do give a shit about political and social issues and go so far as to make such issues the lyrical focus of their songs or the inspiration for their music, and many metal fans patronize such bands in part because of that focus. Other bands and fans obviously don’t give a shit. The more interesting question is whether there ought to be any judgment leveled against bands who prove themselves insensitive to, for example, the feelings (or rights) of other people — or whether instead we should accept the idea that metal is just music, and indeed music that at its very core really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, and in particular what mainstream political ideologies dictate.
What do you think?